Joris Gemstone Traders is fast approaching its 40th anniversary and that isn’t the only milestone the company faces. Founders John and Robyn Joris have announced their retirement, set to begin in 2025. So, with two final years left with their well-established business, we spoke to John Joris about his journey to Joris Gemstone Traders and his retirement.
“Joris Gemstone Traders was established in 1983 and this October marks its 40th year,” John tells Jewellery World. However, John’s interest in gemstones started way before the inception of his company. “My start was as a seven-year-old when my grandparents were taking care of me while my parents were overseas. After dinner, my grandfather, Jules would pull out a set of wooden models of various diamond crystal variations within the cubic system… this was how Jules started to learn the skills of a diamond cutter from his father in Belgium,” he says.
John’s interests later turned into practical skills, “When I was in 4th and 5th form, my father, Albert had [plans] to keep me busy over the mid-year holidays. I would go into Jules Joris Pty Ltd, our family jewellery and gem-cutting business, to learn how to cut sapphires,” says John.
John reminisces on the man who taught him to cut gemstones. “My teacher was Tony Maynard, a truly patient man who insisted on exacting standards. Facets had to meet at a precise point and shapes of oval, pears and marquise had to be symmetrical.” Despite this, John didn’t think the pay was great, nor did he have the patience to cut for a living, but this induction into the industry rekindled the spark of interest that his grandfather had lit.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing), John joined the Arrawatta Sapphires, a mining group in the Glen Innes and Inverell gem fields. He was responsible for aiding in the establishment of their sapphire production, including gem-cutting and sales. “I recall the stress of my sapphire rough buying trips to Inverell,” he says. “Leaving the office mid-Friday for the seven-hour drive. Then up early to see who would come to my room at the Twin Swans Motel on Saturday, followed by another seven-hour drive home on Sunday.” On these trips, John would sort the parcels and offer a price. He sometimes found miners sweeping back their goods and leaving without a word. “I am sure miners are never happy with the price they receive,” he says.
“In October 1983, Robyn and I decided to establish Joris Gemstone Traders initially specialising in Australian sapphires and gradually increasing the range to include Ceylon sapphires, rubies, emeralds and a comprehensive range of semi-precious,” he adds.
John’s passion can easily explain Joris Gemstone Traders’ 40 years of business. “I tend to think buying and selling are in my nature and as a child, I always wanted to make a deal. I enjoy the dynamics and how you have to try and read the person you are buying from or selling to. There’s still a lot I could learn,” John says.
Despite still having much to learn, there are other essential things John and Robyn would like to achieve. “We have thought through the big [retirement] that has been swirling around our heads. To put it simply, as we age, our ability and passion to liquidate a business is greatly diminished. It’s no good at 80 having to face a bridge too far. While we have good health and hopefully time, we would like to relax, travel and get more involved in our community,” John says.
The impact of COVID-19 saw gemstone merchandise prices rise by about 30 percent. The tight availability for wholesalers and jewellers did not go unnoticed. “I think we could expect at least two years for gemstone stocks to normalise,” says John. “All these factors have come into play in our decision to retire.”
However, John describes why this is an excellent opportunity for those looking to buy. “Our initial offer is a ten percent discount on items sold as stock with three days approval and strictly 30-day net settlement for account holders. We are still supplying client-specific requests at our competitive prices on a ten-day approval. In the short term, we will replenish the stock of fast-selling popular items,” he adds.
John’s main focus is to sell to people he has enjoyed having a relationship with throughout his time at Joris Gemstone Traders. “We would like to think of them enjoying some of the benefits of receiving excellent value as we sell down with increasing discounts hence – ‘our retirement is your opportunity’.” After 40 years in the business, the next two years for Joris Gemstone Traders will be quite the transition for John and Robyn. “We will miss the friendships and contact with our clients. In the meantime, it is all hands to the pump. I don’t see the point of saying I never sold below cost when sitting in the big Smokey Dawson chair in a retirement facility, while stock sits untouched in a bank vault.”